Monday, January 08, 2007

Reviewing design in 2006

The last few weeks have, as usual, seen the British newspapers I read conduct their reviews of the year and previews of the year ahead with lists and rankings, recommendations and tips. As usual, there were no informed discussions of design practices and outcomes. Indeed design was mostly invisible, although discussed in some papers within distinct categories such as fashion, architecture and consumer electronics/gadgets. Entangled with consumption, design artefacts are the only things you get to read about in these newspapers - as long as you can buy them and put them in your home, on your desk, or on your body. Within the arts pages, in contrast, film, books, visual art, theatre, dance, opera and music each have their critics and commentators discussing not just outcomes but also the contexts of production.

The problem is of course that everything has been through some kind of design process, so a review of design for 2006 might end up being a meta-list. But even if we limited ourselves to the kinds of things taught and researched at design schools and looked for a national discussion of these in the broadsheets, we still find the major UK media outlets keeping silent about design.

I wonder if - hope that - this might change over the next few years. The UK University and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) has just published its figures for acceptances onto undergraduate programmes. The BBC's report on this is worth a read: in second place for 2006 is "design studies" (below law in first place and above management studies at four). Part of the reason, the BBC reports, is a desire for degree-level studies that relate to vocations and professions. But perhaps it's also possible to read into this a desire on the part of these new undergraduates to develop their knowledge and understanding of how the world is designed and how they might into a reflective, informed discussion about their own designing practices. Or it could be that all the DIY makeover programmes on TV have given them visions of future success as future interior designers...

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